Trump’s crazy talk speaks poorly of California GOP’s future – Orange County Register
SACRAMENTO – It’s been seven years since Donald Trump transformed the party of Reagan into a facsimile of himself, so no one at this point can feign surprise at the delusional and cruel word salad that he spews (or types in Truth Social). Yet I still found his recent talk at the California Republican Party convention depressing. It’s a reminder that the state GOP is still a long way from re-emerging as a check on California’s Democratic stranglehold.
The crowd in Anaheim cheered heartily when Trump joked about Nancy Pelosi’s husband, who was the victim of a violent attack. He also engaged in his customary nod to state-sponsored violence – including proposing a “solution” to the real shoplifting crisis in cities such as Los Angeles: “We will immediately stop all of the pillaging and theft,” Trump declared. “Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store. Shot!”
Trump is just riling people, catering to their ugliest instincts. A sensible rebuttal will no doubt fall on deaf ears, but that doesn’t mean we ought not respond. It’s pretty simple. Police certainly should arrest people who shoplift and take part in organized smash-and-grabs. Then they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But free societies don’t call out federal troops to execute people on the spot.
There are several obvious reasons. For starters, the U.S. Constitution – the same one Trump said he wanted to “terminate” in a Truth Social post after he lost the 2020 election – guarantees due process. Someone, say, steeped in America’s freedom-loving traditions might understand that not every person exiting the store is necessarily a shoplifter.
Perhaps Mrs. Smith and her 8-year-old daughter were shopping and were fleeing the havoc. Maybe Mr. Jones looks like a shoplifter, but didn’t participate in any wrongdoing. Innocent people shouldn’t die in a fusillade of gunfire. It should go without saying, but democratic countries don’t impose the death penalty for even the most anger-inducing property crimes, although that’s a matter of course in the countries run by Trump’s favorite dictators.
Trump, who is facing 91 mostly serious felony charges in four criminal cases for his effort to overturn the election, should appreciate that he gets to present his defense in a series of trials rather than treated to his sort of rough justice. Trump also is having his day(s) in court in his New York civil trial accusing him of fraud. He’s been complaining about its fairness, but it’s not the justice-system’s fault that his legal team didn’t ask for a jury trial.
If Trump defenders still don’t understand, then they should put due process in context of the January 6 riot/insurrection. Obviously, different people did different things. Some orchestrated the event, others attacked Capitol police officers, and still others vandalized property. Then there were those who trespassed or were innocent bystanders. There’s a reason penalties ranged widely from suspended sentences to 22 years in prison.
Some Trump supporters will say I’m belaboring a point and, you know, Trump should be taken seriously but not literally (his supporters apparently are the only ones with the mystical interpretative skills to know which is which). Trump complains about the endless injustices he endures, yet he also routinely calls for the prosecution of his political enemies and worse. There’s no principle – only an attempt to do whatever serves his interests at any given time. His recent comment in Anaheim was no one-off.
In a Truth Social post last month about outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and his communications with a Chinese general (to reportedly assure him that the United States was not planning an attack), Trump unloaded the following: “This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH!”
Even when Trump got the critique right (or maybe tried to be funny), he said weird and cruel things. In Anaheim, Trump noted California’s water problems stem from placing environmental priorities over people’s needs. Bravo, but then he had to make some ad hominem attack as he said that water rationing meant, “rich people from Beverly Hills, generally speaking, don’t smell so good.”
Perhaps the best take on Trump and his most-zealous backers comes from a column by the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer in 2018, titled: “The cruelty is the point: President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear.” Such examples would fill far more than an 850-word column.
His strangest point in California wasn’t cruel, but delusional: “No way we lose this state in a real election.” Look up state party registration data and election results over the past 20 years if you need the numbers to see why that’s bonkers. Any California political party that entertains such hokum should never wonder about its continued irrelevancy.
Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute and a member of the Southern California News Group editorial board. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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